"There are no
ordinary people..."
C. S. Lewis

Paul Murray Olmstead

Saturday, January 6, 1940
Friday, April 7, 2023
Scranton, PA

Paul Murray Olmstead passed away peacefully on April 7,2023 at the age of 83.  Paul was born in Scranton, PA on January 6, 1940 to Elmer Olmstead and Hazel Olmstead.  Shortly after his birth, the family moved to northern NJ where his father worked as a machinist in the nascent WWII defense industry.  In 1941, the family purchased a house in Fair Lawn, NJ which became the family home until 1998.  Paul’s sister, Jeanne, was born in December of 1941.


Paul grew up in Fair Lawn, NJ and graduated in the class of 1958 from Fair Lawn HS.  In high school, he lettered in baseball, football, and wrestling, was active in student government, and was president of his class.  As the first in his family to attend college, he received a B.S. in electrical engineering from M.I.T. in 1962 and an M.S. in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1963.  


In 1965, Paul met Kathryn Stooke who had recently graduated from Stanford University.  They were married in December and remained together for 33 years. In 1966, they moved to Boston, MA, where their daughter, Anne Kathryn, was born in 1967.  Paul received an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in June of 1968.  After graduation from Harvard, Paul joined Raychem Corporation in Menlo Park, CA and was briefly assigned to Philadelphia, PA where their son, John Paul, was born in Camden, NJ in 1969. In 1972, Paul was asked to move to Brussels, Belgium, to head up the Management Information Systems group in Raychem’s European headquarters.  After three years in Belgium, Paul and the family returned to US, settled down in California, and bought a house in Palo Alto where they lived from 1975 through 1998.  In 1977, Paul left Raychem and took positions as chief financial officer and vice president of finance for a series of high technology start-up companies.  In 1987, Paul formed the consulting firm, Olmstead Venture Management, and provided business, technical, and strategic planning advice to entrepreneurs and small companies for the next 20 years.


In the 1990’s, Paul developed a concern for the environment which led him to study solar hydrogen fuel cell systems at Humboldt State University. He received an M.S. in Environmental Systems from Humboldt in 1995.  Paul taught classes in “Problem Solving in Environmental Studies” at Humboldt State University and San Jose State University where he introduced the Case Method Discussion Teaching that had been developed at Harvard Business School.  When he moved to Bellingham in 1999, Paul joined the adjunct faculty of Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University, and continued to teach “Problem Solving in Environmental Studies” classes.


Paul’s personal life revolved around his family, enjoying the outdoors, participating in sports, and pursuing his varied interests.  He looked forward to vacations with the family which included many trips snow skiing at Lake Tahoe, as well as water skiing and wind surfing in northern California.  One of his most memorable experiences was running in a triathlon with Anne and John, when Anne was at UC Davis.  


After he arrived in Bellingham in 1999, Paul learned to kayak and surf ski on Lake Padden where he regularly swam the 1.5 mile circumference of the lake.  He enjoyed hiking the many beautiful scenic trails in Whatcom, Skagit, and Island counties.  Paul also enjoyed partner social dancing and on most Thursday nights, you could find him swing and country dancing at the Skagit Valley Grange.  Paul’s lifelong appreciation and enthusiasm for swing, country and jazz music motivated him to learn and enjoy playing the piano and drums after he retired.


Paul was predeceased by his parents and survived by his sister, Jeanne Packard, and brother-in-law, Raymond Packard, of Palm Coast, FL; his daughter, Anne Harding, son-in-law, Tom Harding, and granddaughters, Katie and Anika Harding, of Danville, CA; his son, John Olmstead, daughter-in-law, Helen O’Shea, and his grandson, Timothy Olmstead, of San Anselmo, CA; his ex-wife, Kathryn Riley, of Palo Alto, CA; and several nieces, nephews, and cousins.  Paul will be remembered for his insightful comments, his sense of humor and his distinctive laughter.

Guestbook Entries

Submitted by Gwen on

Beautiful photos and lovely tribute. Heartfelt hugs to Anne, John and the kids. 

Submitted by Jeanne Packard on

Only a whisper of who he was . . .  No better brother could there be.

In love and support of Anne and Tom, John, Katie and Anika


Submitted by Kim Hargrove on

   Paul's company, sense of humor, intellect, and genuine spirit were appreciated by the Whatcom and Skagit dance communities. He hiked with his dance friends. He swam with his dance friends, He shared his love of music with his dance friends. He shared academic nuggets with his dance friends. He was universally loved by his dance friends.
   Paul is credited with starting his own dance group in Bellingham to further study west coast swing. He was a student of Skippy Blair's. He brought his respect for her theories to the Bellingham dance community. The group evolved to a wonderful troop of friends enjoying dance each Tuesday. And, yes, Paul was a favorite dance partner for the ladies. 
   The world is a less enjoyable place without Paul in it.

Submitted by Michael Chiavario on

Paul was part of a core group of Belingham folks whjo worked to preserve the pace known as the Hundrde Acre Wood. He walked there almost daily until he passed away. His warm smile and greetings always put me at ease. 

Paul was a gentleman. A warm smile, gentle footwork on the beat, a good hear for the up and downbeat. Passion for music, dance and the outdoors. A good friend is gone. He is missed. Rest in peace Paul. 

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